Many people begin preparing for Passover weeks or even months ahead of time by planning each meal, making shopping lists, inviting guests, ordering Judaica and gifts, buying matzah and Kosher for Passover groceries, and cleaning their homes. If you haven’t started preparing yet, don’t worry… the Judaica Webstore team has you covered! We have compiled this guide to demystify the Passover prep process so you can have a stress-free holiday.
Mah Nishtana: why is preparing for Passover 2021 special?
Every Pesach is special, of course, but Passover 2021 is extra special because it begins at sundown on Saturday, March 27, immediately following the end of Shabbat. If you keep Shabbat, it’s important to complete these preparations before Shabbat, as many of the steps that are involved in getting ready for Passover are prohibited by traditional Jewish law.
If it is your custom to search and burn chametz, this must be done on Friday morning, before Shabbat. Many rabbis will also advise that the Seder plate should be prepared before Shabbat begins, and set aside until Passover begins on Saturday night.
As for Havdalah, we do not immediately do the traditional ceremony as soon as Shabbat ends on Saturday night. Instead, the custom is to recite “Baruch ha’mavdil bein kodesh le’kodesh” (Blessed is the One who distinguishes between the holy and the mundane). Then, we light Yom Tov candles and recite shecheyanu. Havdalah is incorporated into Kiddush during the Seder, and your Haggadah should guide you appropriately.
If you wait until the day before Passover to go shopping, you may face slim-pickings at the supermarket. It’s best to plan ahead to figure out what you need and where to buy it. When buying matzah, gefilte fish, matzo ball soup mix, and other traditional foods, read the label carefully to make sure it is truly Kosher for Passover, as not all are! Also, make sure you don’t forget to add the foods you’ll put on the Seder plate to your shopping list. (Unsure what you need? Check out our Seder Plate 101 guide!)
Traditional Jewish law prohibits the presence of any chametz, or leavened bread, in one’s home during Passover, so many people will deep clean every inch of their house that cracker crumbs or bread pieces may have touched. This can take a few days, so give yourself adequate time to get into every nook and cranny!
Additionally, depending on your level of observance, you may wish to kasher the appliances, countertops, sinks and other parts of your kitchen to make it Kosher for Passover. There are various ways to do this according to Judaism’s many interpretations and customs, so for exact guidance, consult a trusted rabbi.
Many people use separate dishes throughout the eight-day holiday that are Kosher for Passover, meaning the dishes, pots, pans, and cutlery have not come into any contact with chametz. Many people also opt to use festive items designated especially for matzah and other Kosher for Passover foods.
It is also possible to kasher kitchenware you already have, but it’s best to ask a rabbi you trust for specific instructions, as not every material is able to be made Kosher for Passover according to traditional Jewish law. If you’re in a bind, disposable tableware is always an option!
Selling of Chametz
If you have Costco-sized bags of pasta that you cannot possibly finish by March 27, do not fear! Any chametz that you are unable to get rid of can be sold to a non-Jewish person for the duration of the holiday. You still keep the chametz in your home, but you put it in a cupboard or closet and seal it off. Creating a contract that is adherent to Jewish law and finding someone to sign it can be challenging, so there are many synagogues and rabbis that will act as a middleman to sell your chametz. Reach out to a rabbi in your community sooner rather than later if you need to sell your chametz!
Fast of the Firstborn
It is an ancient tradition for the firstborn in each family to fast the day before Passover to commemorate the Jewish firstborn sons being spared during the Plagues in Egypt. Since the day before Passover 2021 is Shabbat, it is prohibited to fast. If it is your custom to fast, you are supposed to fast on Thursday, March 26 instead. It is also possible to avoid fasting by participating in a siyum, which are often organized by synagogues in advance of Passover.
Buying Gifts for Hosts and Loved Ones
Passover isn’t traditionally a gift-giving holiday. However, if you are going to someone else’s home for Seder, it can be a nice gesture to bring a small gift, such as a bottle of Israeli wine or a basket of treats.
Some also opt to gift Judaica that is used on Passover, either before Pesach begins or on Seder night. For our staff’s handpicked gifts for Passover 2021, check out this handy guide!
Pesach is more than a festive meal or an excuse to do your spring cleaning — Passover is also a time for reflection due to the holiday’s rich symbolism.
There is no one correct way to identify with Passover. Maybe you are struggling with an illness, affliction, or issue that makes you feel like you are trapped in Egypt and you are eagerly searching for a way to reach your Promised Land. Perhaps the heartbreak and trauma of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has made the 10 Plagues feel too real. Maybe you’re holding onto spiritual chametz that you would find liberation in letting go of. Maybe you’re holding confusion and guilt as we celebrate our freedom while so many other peoples around the world still face forms of slavery and oppression.
All of this is normal. There are many Passover-related journal prompts, webinars, Haggadah additions, virtual retreats, synagogue events, reading materials, and further opportunities for reflection available both on the internet and in-person in some communities.